By Bob Greene
Simona Halep beat Angelique Kerber 6-2 6-3 to win the Qatar Total Open 2014 in Doha, Qatar
Tomas Berdych beat Marin Cilic 6-4 6-2 to win the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Kei Nishikori beat Ivo Karlovic 6-4 7-6 (0) to win the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis, Tennessee, USA
David Ferrer beat Fabio Fognini 6-4 6-3 to win the Copa Claro in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Asia/Oceania Group II: Thailand beat Hong Kong China 4-1 at Nonthaburi, Thailand; Pakistan beat Vietnam 3-2 at Da Lat City, Vietnam
Czech Republic beat Spain 3-2 in Seville, Spain
“The key was I played consistent all the match, very solid, and in important moments I played better than Fabio. I’m happy for my new title.” – David Ferrer, following his victory in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“It was this year one of the goals. For sure I never had the experience, so I’m very happy.” – Peng Shuai, who became the first Chinese player to be ranked number one in the world – her ranking coming in doubles.
“I didn’t think this was coming so quick. I’m excited for this, especially for Peng. She’s number one. I’m more excited that she’s got number one.” – Hsieh Su-Wei, Peng Shuai’s doubles partner.
“She played well. I don’t think I was playing so bad. Maybe sometimes the wrong choice made me lose a lot of important points.” – Li Na, following her third-round loss to Petra Cetkovska in Doha.
“I just want to be focused for every point, to fight for every point.” – Simona Halep, after winning her seventh career title and first of this year.
“I don’t think anything has gone wrong and being number one for two years is a pretty good effort. I’ve achieved basically anything I could on the tour. I’ve won 21 tournaments and been number one for so long, but winning a Grand Slam definitely is the biggest goal of mine that I haven’t achieved yet. You always try and improve, so obviously that’s the incentive when you onto the practice courts.” – Caroline Wozniacki talking to a reporter from Al Jazeera.
“If she’s healthy and can play, she has a spot for sure.” – Mary Joe Fernandez, saying there’s a spot on the United States Fed Cup team for Serena Williams.
“Your ranking is a testament to your hard work and your great results over the year. But I’m confident that younger players will do better than what we’ve achieved.” – Li Na, saying she and Peng Shuai are the beginning of top tennis players from China.
Simona Halep is out to prove 2013 was not a fluke. Last year the Romanian won six tournaments. Her seventh title came in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday when she defeated Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-2 6-3. “I think it’s the best because it’s the biggest tournament which I won,” Halep said. The winner downed three Top 10 player during her run to the title, besting seventh-ranked Sara Errani in the quarterfinals, fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals, and the ninth-ranked Kerber. “It’s tough to play against a player like Simona,” Kerber said. “I was trying to play my game plan, but it was not easy. She hit the balls very well and on the line.” It wasn’t an easy stroll for Kerber. She almost lost her opening match of the tournament, defeating Kaia Kanepi in a third-set tiebreaker in the second round. Kerber double-faulted on the final point of the 66-minute match.
For the sixth straight year the Copa Claro title has been won by a Spaniard. For the third straight year, the winner was David Ferrer, who beat Fabio Fognini in the Buenos Aires title match. Ferrer wasn’t even supposed to be in the tournament, but entered on a wild card when Rafael Nadal withdrew with an injury. “This title was very important to me after seven finals without a victory,” Ferrer said after claiming his 21st career title. The victory boosted Ferrer into fourth place in the ATP World Tour Rankings, moving ahead of Juan Martin del Potro. Ferrer became the first player to win three consecutive Buenos Aires titles. The victory snapped a seven-match losing streak in ATP World Tour finals. Fognini was contesting the final in his fifth straight clay court tournament.
While everybody was watching Li Na’s march up the WTA Tour rankings, Peng Shuai became the first Chinese player to be ranked number one in the world. Peng clinched her top spot in doubles after she and partner Hsieh Su-Wei beat Irina Buryachok and Vitalia Diatchenko in the first round in Doha. In the past 12 months, Peng and Hsieh won five WTA titles, including Wimbledon and the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships. At the beginning of the year Peng was ranked 56 in the world.
SET FOR DUBAI
Serena Williams is playing this week in the Dubai Duty Free Championships after receiving a wild card. The world’s top-ranked woman had not played since losing in the fourth round of the Australian Open to former world number one-ranked Ana Ivanovic. Williams has been waylaid with a back injury.
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki says she is pleased with her career up to this point, even though she has fallen to No. 11 in the rankings and has only won three titles in the past two years. The Dane, who has won 21 titles overall, hasn’t reached a Grand Slam semifinal since the 2011 U.S. Open.
“I don’t think anything has gone wrong and being No. 1 for two years is a pretty good effort,” Wozniacki told Al Jazeera. “I’ve achieved basically anything I could on the tour. I’ve won 21 tournaments and been No. 1 for so long, but winning a Grand Slam definitely is the biggest goal of mine that I haven’t achieved yet. You always try and improve so obviously that’s the incentive when you onto the practice courts.”
Even though an injury kept Serena Williams from playing Fed Cup, it didn’t keep the world’s top-ranked player from cheering on her American team in their losing effort against Italy. “She’s been very supportive throughout the years,” US Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez said of Williams. “She was writing us during the matches, watching it live stream. When Christina (McHale) was playing, (Serena) was like, ‘OK, she can come back. Tell her to hit more forehands.’ She was play-by-play on each match. … She was very supportive, wishing the girls luck, that they can do it.” Because of the loss, the United States has to play in a World Group playoff later this year to remain in the top tier of teams playing for the international team trophy. And Fernandez wouldn’t mind having Williams to help out. “If she’s healthy and can play, she has a spot for sure,” Fernandez said of Williams.
The Czech Republic moved into the Fed Cup semifinals for the sixth straight year with a dramatic 3-2 win over Spain. Playing on clay in Seville, Spain, the Czech Republic bounced back by taking two of the three matches on the third day of the rain-delayed tie. The winning point came in doubles when Andrea Hlavackova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, playing together for the first time, defeated Carla Suarez Navarro and Silvia Soler-Espinosa 7-6 (7) 6-3. Lucie Safarova made sure the doubles match was relevant. Three days earlier, Safarova had been left out of the singles lineup due to an illness. But the rain delays allowed her time to recover and, playing her first clay-court match of the season, defeated Solar-Espinosa in three sets to knot the tie at 2-2. “I was so happy to get this chance to finally score a point,” Hlavackova said after the Czechs captured the tie. “This is my first ever Fed Cup point.”
Two former number one players — Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic – have re-signed as global brand ambassadors for Dubai Duty Free. The two players have represented the organization at a number of prestigious international events. Wozniacki attended the Newbury Races for the Dubai Duty Free-sponsored spring meeting in 2012 and the Dubai Airshow Gala the following year, while Ivanovic made an appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby in June last year and walked the red carpet at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012. Dubai Duty Free is a longtime supporter of the growth of women’s tennis throughout the region and is owner, organizer and title sponsor of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
USTA Serves, the national charitable foundation of the United States Tennis Association, will host a fundraising reception on March 2 in New York City as part of the World Tennis Day Celebration. The reception will also raise funds to support USTA Serves’ funding of scholarships and programming grants to under-resourced youth at four New York metro National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters.
Buenos Aires: Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez beat Pablo Cuervas and Horacio Zeballos 7-5 6-4
Doha: Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik 6-4 6-0
Memphis: Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 6-4 6-4
Rotterdam: Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez
Rio de Janeiro: www.rioopen.com
Delray Beach: www.yellowtennisball.com
São Paulo: www.brasilopen.com.br
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$1,309,770 Rio Open presented by Claro hdtv, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, clay
$748,828 Open 13, Marseille, France, hard
$474,005 Delray Beach Open by The Venetian® Las Vegas, Delray Beach, Florida, USA, hard
$100,000 New Delhi, India, hard
$2,000,000 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hard
$250,000 Rio Open presented by Claro hdtv, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,928,340 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hard
$1,309,770 Abierto Mexicano Telcel, Acapulco, Mexico, hard
$474,005 Brasil Open 2014, São Paulo, Brazil, clay
$250,000 Brasil Tennis Cup, Florianopolis, Brazil, hard
$250,000 Abierto Mexicano Telcel, Acapulco, Mexico, hard